Director : Ravi Jadhav
Music : Vishal-Shekhar
Starring : Subodh Bhave, Madan Deodhar, Anand Ingale, Kishore Kadam, Avinash Narkar, Prathamesh Parab, Supriya Pathare, Rohit Phalke, Shashwati Pimplikar, Bhagyashree Shankpal, Amruta Subhash, Vishakha Subhedar, Sai Tamhankar, Satish Tare
The age of curiosity has reduced by just three years! This is the defining dialogue of BALAK PALAK, a Marathi Film which releases today. And the way gizmos have entered our daily moments, leave alone, living rooms and bedrooms, I guess, in a few years, that age of curiosity will climb down even further. The question then remains; will the parents be able to answer ‘uncomfortable’ questions from inquisitive kids?
That is the question BP (don’t miss the pun) sets out to answer; it gets you thinking as to how to handle ‘difficult, curious questions’ from kids pertaining to sex. In the past, it was OK to tell your 16-year-old that he fell from the loft. Today’s kids will fall off their chair if you give them this answer!
Director Ravi Jadhav handles a very pertinent question with creative calm that at times brings the house down. The dialogues are witty, designed to inject those lighter moments to portray how kids actually perceive us adults and our serious awkwardness.
The film begins with a father berating his 11-year-old son for surfing porn sites and sifting through some ‘heavy magazines’. The dad has literally brought the house down and is fuming when he explains to his wife what their son has been upto in the privacy of his bedroom which is ‘well connected’.
Bringing you to a point of contemplation, Jadhav breaks your reverie as he jumps two generations in the past to reveal the adolescent years of the father, as a 13-year-old.
Avya (Rohit Phalke), Bhagya (Mandhar Deodhar), Dolly (Shahaswati Pimplikar) and Chiu (Bhagyashree Shankpal) are four innocents who live in a chawl. Their life is full of fun, games and studies. One day, they return from school to see one of the elder girls in the locality being taken away by her parents. On asking the elders, they learn that the girl in question has ”eaten shen” (cow dung)!
Perturbed as to how ”shen khaiyacha” could lead to her leaving the society the kids ask around only to be pushed away or slapped by their parents. Kids being kids will be curious and the more you hide from them, the more they will set out to find the truth.
They know of a good-for-nothing fellow living nearby who is wise in the ways of the world. So they decide to go to him for help. Elder to them by a few years, Vishu (Prathamesh Parab) educates them the way he knows best; through porn books and later, when their theory has been perfected, through practicals by hiring a VCR and some ‘special movies’. Their ‘Dhinchak Dhinchak’ or ‘Boom Boom’ lesson is now complete. But then a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and when Chiu starts throwing up after watching the stuff, she is afraid she might be pregnant!
An elder in the chawl Kadam Uncle (Kishore Kadam) observes the changes within the four friends and the adverse influence of Vishu in their lives. He tries to warn their parents to no effect. Suddenly games are no more what they are interested in. The boys begin to ogle at every passing girl and Neha Tai (Sai Tamhankar) becomes Bhagya’s obsession. There is a strange perspective shift as they understand the meaning of ‘Shen khaana’ and their own ‘rise’ in passion.
The film leaves you with the Dad and Mum reminiscing about their past and their lack of knowledge which led them to Vishu. The father says that to correct their son they will have to find out who the Vishu is in his life. His wife informs him that their son’s ‘Vishu’ is the internet!
The questions BALAK PALAK raises for parents to answer is this: Should we be open with our children and answer their questions?
Obviously it is a resounding yes, because it’s best to learn the truth from parents who have to be a child’s best friend than from somewhere else where there is every possibility of everything going wrong. After all, only the truth will set you free!
The casting is perfect and the setting and executing of the entire film is subtle. You can identify with every child’s questioning mind and every parent’s unease. BP also takes you on a journey down the years. The sub-titles in English make it easy for those who find it difficult to understand Marathi. That’s another intelligent move by the makers to reach out to as many as possible. It also gets you to better understand the use of shudh Marathi words making sure the humour is not lost on you.
With BP, Riteish Deshmukh makes his debut as a producer and it is heartening to note that along with co-producer Uttung Thakur he has set out to make meaningful cinema. We need more such producers using movies to educate and entertain. I do hope he takes this movie to as many schools and colleges as possible. It would be sad if the movie meets the same fate as Gauri Sarvate’s 2010 Marathi film MANI MANGALSUTRE that had Hrishitaa Bhatt in the lead role. A beautiful movie that failed to make an impact because of bad marketing.
Suggestion: The production house can strategically target schools and have special screenings for the children with atleast one parent accompanying them. It would be a huge cost on them but then it would be worth investing it. Count it as a CSR (Corporate Social responsibility), Riteish.
Verdict: Don’t miss it. Parents, do take your teenagers along. And yes, if there can be a tax benefit, nothing like it.
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